1 June 2020 — American Herald Tribune
Mohsen Abdelmoumen: What is the current situation in Venezuela?
Thierry Deronne: The daily problems derived from the US blockade and sabotage, such as the lack of water, gas, electricity, petrol, or the price war of a predominant sector, which have brutally reduced the purchasing power, have not caused the popular revolt that the United States is hoping for. On the one hand because the government continues to invent restraint barriers, allowances, food at low prices, on the other hand because the population has been in a resistance school for at least six years, helps each other and adapts very quickly.
The treatment of the pandemic, the massive and free home testing, the free repatriation of tens of thousands of Venezuelans trapped by the explosion of the virus in neighboring neo-liberal regimes, reaffirm this political will to protect the population on the part of the Maduro government. Finally, the cooperation of “two thirds of the world” dreamed by Simon Bolivar is embodied. The U.S. blockade of its external refineries and the import of additives to produce it locally had deprived Venezuela of gasoline. Five tankers sent by Iran have just broken the U.S.-European blockade. Threatened by the Trump administration and escorted by the Bolivarian army as soon as they arrive in Venezuelan waters, these ships bring gasoline for two weeks and additives to continue production on the spot. This victory in the face of the long economic war – launched in 2013 and reinforced during the pandemic – is a hope for many nations undergoing the “sanctions” – unilateral coercive measures – of the West.
We have learned that on May 3 there was an operation called “Operation Gideon” which consisted of kidnapping or killing President Nicolás Maduro and several members of his government. What can you tell us about it?
After the death of President Hugo Chavez and the election in 2013 of Nicolás Maduro as President of Venezuela, in a context of falling world oil prices, the United States believed the time had come to annihilate the Bolivarian Revolution and erase its influence in Latin America. An era of unprecedented violent destabilization has begun, the objective of which remains the change of “regime” through the assassination of the elected government and its sympathizers, in a scenario of Colombian-style terror. The 2020 episode began with the announcement by William Barr, a very right-wing Republican appointed Attorney General by Donald Trump, of the indictment of “narco-terrorist” Nicolás Maduro for “drug trafficking, narco-terrorist partnership with FARC over the last twenty years” and putting a $15 million bounty on his head to locate or capture him.
The paramilitary incursion on 3 May was prepared on the spot by the usual “chaos storytelling” operations: clashes with heavy weaponry of the underworld in the Colombian-controlled neighborhoods of Petare in eastern Caracas, fuel shortage planned by the United States, another delirious increase in food by the private sector. On April 29, angered by the government’s determination to control prices, Lorenzo Mendoza – boss of the private food giant POLAR – had demanded, through the WhatsApp of the Venezuelan employers, “a military intervention to assassinate Maduro”. On April 30, Elliott Abrams, the ” Venezuela officer ” of Donald Trump, implicated in crimes against humanity in Central America in the 80s, declared, like Mike Pompeo, that “the transition in Venezuela was near” and that “the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela would soon be reopened”.
Investigations after the failure of this new coup against the Bolivarian government, however, leave little doubt about the participation of the Colombian government of Iván Duque and on his close alliances with the big drug cartels and the paramilitary mafias to carry out this operation. The Colombian government has even officially declared that it will punish the soldiers of its own armed forces responsible for the leaks in the training camps set up on its territory.
The mainstream media first tried to cover up the paramilitary incursion or mocked it with quotation marks. Until the Washington Post put online the contract signed to this end by their dear “democratic opponent” Juan Guaido, and Juan José Rendon, a close advisor to Alvaro Uribe and Ivan Duque. This 42-page document plans in great detail the incursion of a paramilitary beachhead and the assassination of Nicolas Maduro, of the main leaders of Chavism as well as leaders of popular organizations, as a prelude to a heavy “Libya” or “Panama” invasion and a “Colombian-style” terror policy to extirpate the social base of Chavismo and resettle Western multinationals, while paying itself by oil and other resources from Venezuela.
How do you explain the economic war being waged by the United States against Venezuela and its democratically elected president? And why does Venezuela remain a permanent target of the US with attacks, sanctions, etc. regardless of who is at the head of the White House, whether Democrat or Republican, since US foreign policy against Venezuela is always the same?
The wager of the United States is to continue to work so that the whole economy collapses, and that a social break finally allows “regime change”, either through a coup d’état or a military invasion. Guaido’s contract shows clearly that there are two aspects. First, to get their hands on the oil. The other aspect, which should not be underestimated, is the need to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution as a political fact constituted by the entry on the scene of the people hitherto excluded. This “contagious” possibility for other countries must be nipped in the bud. It is significant that the media are turning Venezuela into a dictatorship when it is – anyone who travels quickly realizes this – a country where the people are very active, very politicized, criticizing the government while voting for it, because he got into politics beyond the paternalism, the clientelism of the pre-Chavez years.
There is talk of a very active far right in the Venezuelan opposition. Isn’t this extreme right-wing oligarchy a veritable Trojan horse of US imperialism?
It’s mostly the worst horse. This oligarchy can’t get out of itself. Its colonial violence, its racism, its contempt for class, its “Western” alienation make it unable to found a popular policy. In Latin America, the return of the right therefore needs Lawfare, police violence, coups d’état, the return of the military… Let’s take the “Guaido system”: we are in the presence of a media-driven gangsterism. A young far-right activist trained by the CIA, who never ran for president, proclaims himself head of state on 23 January 2019 in a chic neighborhood of Caracas. Hitherto little known by Venezuelans, he is now knighted by Donald Trump and the major media groups. The fake president immediately received the support of an “international community” fantasized by the media since 162 of the 197 UN member states did not recognize him. The hologram of the tropical Obama travels, visits Western presidents and parliaments, signs contracts, appropriates companies, steals assets, plunders Venezuela’s bank accounts, is receiving more and more funding from CIA NGOs, calls for more and more sanctions to Europe and the United States to reinforce the economic crisis and social discontent, and bring down the legitimate government, which came out of the popular vote.
Even Donald Trump seems to be getting tired of his creature, with no social base, unable to overthrow the “regime” (as in his failed coup attempt in Caracas in April 2019 with a handful of extreme right-wing soldiers). Colombian, Panamanian, US media lift the veil and publish photos of Guaido’s links with Colombian paramilitary killers (“Los Rastrojos”, a gang specializing in drug trafficking, smuggling, kidnapping and extortion) and on the thick web of corruption, also denounced by some of its far-right allies, angry at having received only a few crumbs from the cake. According to Bloomberg.com, a sector of the opposition resulting from the 2002 coup d’état against Hugo Chavez (Radonsky tendency) even sent three emissaries to Washington in May to ask for an end to Operation Guaido and to move on to another phase of destabilization.
The WHO (World Health Organization) has recently requested permission from Venezuela to study its strategy for suppressing the pandemic in order to replicate it in other countries. How do you explain that Venezuela, while under sanctions, has succeeded where countries such as the USA, Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, etc., which boast of having the best health systems in the world and colossal resources, have failed against Covid-19?
Venezuela took very early measures of containment, wearing masks, mass testing with the help of Cuba, China, Russia and the UN/WHO because the policy of the Maduro government has the protection of life and the human being at heart while the neo-liberal regimes that attack him put the economy first and let the pandemic explode. As a result, there have been only 11 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, in Venezuela, a number confirmed by the WHO and with no possible comparison with its neighbors. Here again, the massive disinformation that wants to pass off Venezuelan participatory democracy as a “dictatorship” does not hold up. Why this voluntarist policy of saving lives, which goes so far as to repatriate, free of charge, tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens often infected from virulent Covid sources such as Colombia, Chile or Brazil, if the objective, as the media claim, is to repress the population?
It must be understood that far-right uprisings have been transformed by the international media into “popular revolts” and the reaction of the security forces into “repression by the dictatorship”. The news and photo agencies that have become the sole source of most journalists today have even gone so far as to turn terrorists into “heroes of the struggle for democracy”, while at the same time making invisible the social, popular, peaceful majority, which rejected violence in favor of the ballot box. Many left-wing movements and activists have fallen into the trap of this propaganda. It was the time when the slogan “Neither Trump nor Maduro” appeared. Under the pressure of a media field that has become homogenous, most Western journalists or political scientists replace causes by effects, blame President Maduro for a “crisis” or establish a “fifty-fifty” that is more ideological than empirical between the economic war and the internal problems of mismanagement or lack of investment by the Bolivarian government.
You have created a school of international communication for social movements, supported in particular by the Landless movement of Brazil. Shouldn’t the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggle also take place at the level of information? Don’t you think this experience should be spread around the world? And in your opinion, how can we effectively fight against the dominant media and what role can the alternative media play in the face of big capital and imperialism? Don’t the oppressed peoples need real media that reflect their sufferings and struggles instead of media that serve the interests of the big capitalists?
Exactly. This is, I believe, the strategic, urgent, work for the Left, everywhere. But if the big media erase the history of peoples and oppose citizens to better demobilize their struggles, will it be enough for us to democratize their property? Recovering all these spaces will only make sense if we are trained everywhere in a new, participatory, way of informing. Located in Caracas, at the crossroads of the Americas and the Caribbean, the Hugo Chavez School of International Communication is an old dream of social movements. Its strength lies in the 25 years of experience of its founders and its ready-made infrastructure for television production and transmission. It will be an important step towards returning the media field to the hands of citizens and will reach out to other continents, Africa in particular. You can support the school here: The Hugo Chavez School of Continental Communication: Let us remain in control of our Future.
The commercial, the private, have nothing to do with the right to be informed and to inform citizens, they obviously prevent it. All this was very clear in the 60s and 80s (notably because of the national liberation struggles, the MC Bride report commissioned by UNESCO on “the new world order of information”, of Mattelart’s media analysis of the 1973 coup in Chile, without forgetting all the conceptual work done by Walter Benjamin, the Frankfurt School, Bourdieu, Chomsky, etc.). It seems today that the Left has forgotten all that and has converted to the “com” (note: communication). Marketing produces a certain type of policy, e.g. excessive personalization, dominance of the short term, loss of listening and reduction of fieldwork, internal training, or reduction of programs to the “societal”. As Louis Althusser said, “it is only from a technique that one can deduce an ideology”. How many more media coups will we wait to draft a global law to democratize media ownership, to rebuild a participatory public service that is not the copy of the private, to give the rest of the airwaves, concessions, frequencies and resources to popular media, to rethink the digital potential beyond the narcissistic, ephemeral, tribal US networks, and to free schools of journalism from market forces?
Several intellectuals and personalities such as Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, etc. signed an open letter to the President of the United States and the Secretary-General of the United Nations calling for the lifting of economic sanctions against countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Syria and Zimbabwe. What is the impact of this type of action on the situation in Venezuela? Do you think this kind of action is useful to support the struggle and the just cause of the Venezuelan people?
I see these actions as necessary pedagogical acts in the countries that generate them, to remind citizens how the world works, to reconnect the effects to the causes. Because media governance and the retreat on consumption, especially in the United States and Europe, have created a great vacuum: an “End of History” that goes from free market to libertarian ego. As two-thirds of the world evolves towards a “full” vision, which Simon Bolivar described as ” world equilibrium”. In this return of History, the great nations take their place again, thousands of years of culture and historical creation meet rebel countries like Venezuela and begin to realize this multipolar world, made of sovereignty and cooperation. Even the solution for the Palestinian people depends on this new world. Europe will have demonstrated, ad nauseam, its total impossibility of doing anything for the Palestinian people since they were expelled from their land.
Can we consider “democracies” the Western powers led by the United States when these countries want to overthrow a president elected by his people?
The entry of Europeans into Disneyworld since the invasion of Iraq was confirmed on 20 May at the UN Security Council. At a time when Venezuela was demonstrating, with evidence, that the United Kingdom had stolen thirty-one tonnes of Venezuelan gold and signed a secret pact with Guaido’s team to overthrow the “regime” and then freely “rebuild and invest” in that country, Europeans have again isolated themselves with the United States despite the majority support given to Venezuela by countries such as Russia, South Africa, Indonesia, China, and Vietnam, and have preferred to repeat Mike Pompeo’s surreal speech: “it was the Maduro government that orchestrated the paramilitary aggression.” This led them to the cruel question from the Russian representative: “You who recognized a puppet president, what do you think about it today? “
Nicolas Maduro’s government is a legitimately elected left-wing government (Jimmy Carter, the Council of Latin American Jurists, Rodriguez Zapatero, Lula, or Rafael Correa, among so many international observers and mediators between the government and non-Putschist sectors of the opposition, insisted on transparency, legitimacy, and a record number of elections). There is a majority of private media in Venezuela, and the private economy is also a majority. Some 40 parties and, most interesting for the future, a complex process of participatory democracy.
Activists in Europe are rightly outraged: why the shyness of the Left in the face of the permanent aggression on Venezuelan democracy? Venezuela is sacrificed because the quantity of propaganda has generated the quality: Maduro is a dictator who starves his people. When for too long the dominant media have been hammering away at the same image, the Left, absorbed by the “com”, lower its head, elections, careers or personal image forcing it to do so. Perhaps it is possible to measure whether a party embodies a real break in its ability to show courage in relation to an issue as distant and ” expendable ” as Venezuela. If a true Left came back to power in Europe, it would very quickly realize its double error of having given up transforming the media field: first the mistake of cutting itself off from the world, from the keys to the world and from potential allies who could strengthen it. But also because if it came to power, it would very quickly be disfigured, sabotaged and attacked from all sides by the power of the mass media. Left-wing politics needs popular, public, participatory media that feeds it from within, medias that, as Jean-Paul Sartre said, “allow the people to discuss with the people”, that build an imagination and a practice that allow to sediment and perpetuate a progressive world beyond mere electoral deadlines, a “democracy” in the original sense of the term. It suffices to consider in fact that information is a vital food for the people. All that we are rediscovering about food sovereignty at a time of possible famine, applies to a well-understood ” communicational sovereignty “.
How do you explain that in a country like the United States, the police kill people for the sole reason that their skin color is black? Is the United States, which continually interferes in the sovereignty of other nations, a racist country? What is your reading of the events related to the assassination of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police and the consequences that this has had throughout the United States?
European Left-wing political scientists find difficult to understand that the colonial contradiction is at the heart of our present, they think it’s a conceptual error, something anachronistic, that the joyful postmodernity – the one that delivers their Macs to them at home – has gone beyond all that, and that Trump or Bolsonaro are racist accidents of History, or of the “free world”. It’s just the opposite. Under the advertising varnish of capitalist globalization, the deep History of our world has never disappeared, it has even come back to the surface, even stronger. The revolt that is happening in the United States is the same one that founds the resistance of the Venezuelan people. The true republic, equal to the end, was massacred in France, but it was assumed in the first place by Haiti, who saved Simón Bolivar’s plan from extinction, by financing him, giving him weapons, and reinforcements of all kinds. As soon as Bolivar assumed in his “program” the liberation of the slaves, he flew from victory to victory. Our Mother Africa, as Chavez used to say, and Haiti are reason enough for our will to be free, to be respected, to be treated as equals, to be able to give to the world all that we have to offer. And that’s why President Trump used, exactly three weeks away, the same phrase about Venezuela that he used about the American people in Minneapolis: “Our soldiers are ready. We can send troops into the field very quickly.” This white supremacism is what the Venezuelan extreme right wants to import to Venezuela, to return to the apartheid of before Chavez, whom they hated as much for his politics as because he was a “mono” (a monkey).
If anyone is to be held accountable, it is the Western journalist who made the revolts of rich white Venezuelans and their rage as Afrikaners look like a people’s revolt against a dictatorship. They have presented an insurgent minority against the inclusion of the mestizos and the wealth sharing as “the people of Venezuela! » while the social majority in Venezuela is a mestizo majority, the one that reporters housed in the uptown areas of Caracas have never wanted to show. In Venezuela, the social, popular majority is peaceful: it has always rejected violence in favor of the ballot box, and despite its many criticisms, has supported in majority the electoral option of the Bolivarian government. Many Left-wing movements and activists have fallen into the trap of this propaganda by identifying themselves with the idea of a popular revolt. We all have in mind the images of “police repression” in Venezuela and few people know that the order of the editing was reversed. When the Right was planning an assault, cameras from all over the world were already on the spot. The street violence and the response of the security forces, staged in reverse, created the image of a “regime” repressing demonstrators. What is more serious is that the media have automatically, day after day, blamed the “regime” for the deaths caused by the extreme right, which has fueled the energy of the killers. They knew perfectly well that every death attributed to Maduro would strengthen the argument for intervention. But who, from Médiapart to Le Soir, from France Inter to Le Monde, who, in the vast grey zone (Primo Levi) of private media groups, will agree to admit that he encouraged racist murderers who have not hesitated to burn alive “black therefore chavist” Afro-descendants? A minority whose epicenter is now moving towards Miami, Paris and above all the Salamanca district in Madrid (nicknamed “Little Caracas” and where they acquired seven thousand luxury apartments, according to the New York Times) and from where they are now launching, in the same colonial vein as in Caracas, angry demonstrations against the “communist” government (sic) of Sanchez and Podemos that wants to make of Spain, according to them, “another Venezuela” (sic again).
Today, in the most difficult war between those who exist and those who do not exist or so few, we in Venezuela like to quote the expression “Rondón no ha pelado todavia”. In the midst of an almost lost battle against the Spanish Empire, Simon Bolivar appealed to Colonel Juan José Rondón, asking him to “save the Homeland”, and the “negro” Rondón said “Rondón hasn’t fought yet”, returned the battle in favor of the troops of the nascent Bolivarian Republic and saved the possibility of our independence.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
*(Top image: Thierry Deronne. Credit: zintv.org)
Who is Thierry Deronne?
Belgian filmmaker, university graduate (IHECS Brussels), Thierry Deronne is living in Venezuela since 1994. He first lived in Nicaragua for two years to contribute as a video maker to the transformation movement led by the Sandinista government, and then moved on to Venezuela where, after Hugo Chavez’s election victory, he founded a popular Latin American audiovisual school as well as two popular televisions. From 2004, he participated in the management and training of the staff of the public participatory television Vive TV created at the request of President Chavez. He is at the heart of the project to build the international school of communication for social movements “Hugo Chavez”, space for the articulation of social movements from all over the world and meetings with local popular organizations. You can support the school by making your contribution here.
He has directed several documentary films including « Le Passage des Andes » (The Andean Passage, 2005) and et « Jusqu’à nous enterrer dans la mer » (Until burying us in the sea, 2017) visible in its entirety here.
Thierry Deronne created the blog Venezuela Infos in which he informs the public about the reality in Venezuela.